How to handle first-day jitters

Career & Education

Carolyn Marie Smith

Sunday, September 02, 2018

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Dear Career Advisor:

I begin a new job in a few days and I am experiencing a mix of trepidation and excitement. This is not my first job, as I have previously had two full-time positions plus an exciting internship overseas. It is, however, somewhat of a career change, hence my mixed emotions. What should I expect in my first few days? How can I make sure I succeed?

Yours truly,


Dear CG:

It is normal to experience a level of anxiety with any major change in our lives — a new job, change in career, new school, or relationship changes. To stay in control of the situation requires that you begin with the mindset that you are adequately suited for this job, as evidenced by your being selected from among the pool of potentially good candidates.

As you have not indicated whether your role is that of a line staff or managerial or in leadership, we will provide general guidelines now, and in a follow-up response propose a few strategies for success for new managers.

Strategise for your success in this new job by beginning with a positive attitude. Your first few days will afford you opportunities to develop your personal brand with this organisation. During your orientation, your supervisors and colleagues will be keenly observing you in respect of your job competencies and work ethic, as well as your personality. As you yourself may have done in assessing others, your informal evaluation will begin the minute you walk through the door, so put your best foot forward especially in respect of your social interactions. Be friendly, polite.0 Make an effort to learn people's names, show enthusiasm, and express appreciation for every gesture that helps to facilitate your transitioning into the new role. Do not complain or lament if things turn out to be not as you expected. Try to limit comparisons to your previous employment, particularly if they portray your previous employer in a negative light.

In respect of job delivery, make note of ways in which you can achieve the job targets, improve processes, and solve client or departmental problems. Do not begin by declaring what you intend to change or by making demands of what must change. Instead, allow yourself time to carefully observe and analyse how the processes and systems operate.

Ask questions and seek clarification for things you do not understand, but do not exasperate those around you with myriad questions. Make note of things (eg terminologies, concepts) with which you are unfamiliar and, as far as possible, seek the answer independently. Google it. If your trainer or manager gives no indication of the frequency with which he or she will require a progress report, be assertive and take the initiative to propose a time frame. By so doing you will demonstrate that you are a self-starter who takes the job seriously.

From as early as your first week, develop the habit of documenting your progress and achievements against your performance targets. This should be framed from an outcomes perspective and not be a chronicle of every minutia of activity. These notes will prove useful when it is time for your formal performance review.

Trusting you will find these suggestions useful. All the best.

Yours truly,

Career Advisor

Carolyn Smith is associate vice-president, student services, at Northern Caribbean University in Mandeville, Manchester. Submit your questions to her at careeradvisor@ncu.

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